Ratchet & Clank is definitely one of my favorite series. Weighing in at eight games developed by the core Insomniac team, plus several spin-off titles, the franchise had basically become one of the last bastions for the once-thriving 3D platformer genre. Two-thirds of the way through the series’ second main trilogy, however, Insomniac didn’t seem to want to continue focusing on it like it had been.
They finished the trilogy with the very good, but very truncated Into the Nexus. Despite being the last time we would hear from our heroes timeline-wise, the game was about half the length of its predecessor, A Crack in Time. Because of this, I was worried about the series’ future.
Surprisingly, though, Sony announced a Ratchet & Clank movie that was going to be released alongside a re-imagined version of the first game in the series. As a fan that thought it unlikely that we would see more of the Lombax and his robot pal, this was definitely something to look forward to. But the movie was awful and the game, while definitely good, was underwhelming.
Instead of an all-new adventure, it was mostly just a retread of the first game in the series from back in 2002. Most of the game’s levels were identical to those of the original. Still, though, the first Ratchet game was definitely the weakest visually and mechanically, as the series’ trademark shooting didn’t really start to shine until the game’s fantastic sequel, Up Your Arsenal. Even though we weren’t getting a brand-new adventure, at least, I thought, we’d be getting a definitive version of the original game, just with fantastic graphics and the extremely polished gameplay the series had become known for.
However, once the game came out, I was left disappointed. It’s certainly a gorgeous game with fantastic gameplay, just as I expected from Insomniac. The game played a lot better than the original Ratchet & Clank did and due to it being written in-house, it was much funnier and wittier during its story sequences than the movie ever was. But the game cut too much out of the original, making it not only unessential for fans but making the original still the superior game in multiple ways.
The most obvious change was that, even though the majority of the game’s worlds were taken straight from the first game and polished to current-gen standards, multiple entire worlds were completely removed from the game. In their place was really just one level that was the equivalent of the size of one of the removed ones. This wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that the re-imagining is at least 2/3rds the size of the original game.
This is made worse by the fact that some of the cut worlds were some of the coolest the series had to offer. There was Eudora, the forested planet where you fought logging robots with axes, Orxon, a heavily polluted planet that Ratchet couldn’t initially traverse, Hoven, the requisite ice planet. And the cuts went on; the Gorda City Ruins, a destroyed city packed with tough enemies, the invasion and attack on Drek’s fleet (which is actually directly replaced with one of the few new areas, that just isn’t quite as good as what was in the original) and they even got rid of the original game’s infuriatingly-tough last level, the return to Ratchet’s homeworld of Veldin.
This would be more okay if it weren’t for the fact that most of these don’t really get replacements. 1/3rd of the levels got scrapped and were mostly replaced with a big ball of nothing. This is still very much the original Ratchet & Clank in most ways, so the pacing feels wonky. It’s like watching a movie with 1/3rd of its scenes deleted for no good reason at all. It makes the game feel less substantial and meaningful.
On top of that, the progression from the original game is completely gone. The first game was unique to the series in how it had two ways of managing progression; infobots and new equipment allowing you to progress in new areas. The original had more facets of its collect-a-thon nature due to the year it came out in and in order to unlock new worlds, you had to collect bolts to access infobots that showed entertaining videos which gave our heroes important clues to get to their next destination.
The equipment worked similarly. For example, Ratchet couldn’t just swim underwater infinitely in the original game, so in order to progress in the underwater sections, he had to first find a breathing apparatus that allowed him to explore underwater. It really went a long way to sprucing up the progression and giving Ratchet and Clank a solid bedrock for their abilities in subsequent games. Without the infobots and the gadgets, the game feels much more straightforward and loses a great amount of its charm in the process.
One welcome change is that the game has all-new boss battles that flow better with the new combat than the old bosses would have. The giant monster Ratchet fights in the lava area is much more capable and threatening this time around, even if he can be a bit bullet-spongy. The game even has an entirely new and very fun final boss battle that I think is overall better than the original game’s.
Even the music was all new. The original game has some of the absolute best music in the franchise, but when exploring the new game’s worlds, only brand new tracks are heard. This isn’t a big deal, I know, but the fact is that, just like with the worlds themselves, the music is just another thing the devs took out without replacing with something equally good or better.
I’m definitely not saying the re-imagined Ratchet & Clank isn’t a good game. It’s a very good game that I’ve beaten multiple times and enjoy very much. It’s also a great starting place for newcomers to the series. There is definitely a ton of fun to be had here for anyone who still has a hankering for action-platformers.
I suppose I’m just sad that after the abbreviated final game in the Future series, we didn’t get the best Insomniac was capable of. And who knows if we’ll ever see another game in the series again? Like I said, though, this is still a good game. The controls are fantastic and the game’s presentation is absolutely gorgeous, but I really wish Ratchet & Clank had gotten the full-remake it really deserved and not a game that left so much of its potential on the cutting-room floor.
Andrew Farrell has an extreme hearing sensitivity called hyperacusis that keeps him away from all loud noises. Please do not throw rocks at his window. That is rude. He loves action and rpg games, whether they be AAA or indie. He does not like sports games unless the sport is Baseketball.